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News > Air expeditionary units inactivate after last Airmen leave Iraq
Air expeditionary units inactivate after last Airmen leave Iraq

Posted 12/20/2011   Updated 12/20/2011 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Kerry Jackson
321st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

12/20/2011 - SOUTHEAST ASIA -- Four air expeditionary units that were the air and space components to U.S. Forces-Iraq inactivated during a flag casing ceremony here, Dec. 18, 2011.

The 467th Air Expeditionary Group, the 368th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing and the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq stood down following the conclusion of Operation New Dawn.

"For many of us here today we have spent most of our adult lives engaged in the battle to free first Kuwait and then Iraq," said Lt. Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander, who presided  over the ceremony. "Today is a day full of emotions, a day of reflection, and a day to remember-- it's also a day to remember all those who died in Iraq for our country, for Iraq, for this region... for their brothers and sisters in arms."

The ceremony was held hours after the last U.S. military convoy departed Iraq and crossed into Kuwait, punctuating the end of a nearly nine-year war. It also afforded senior leaders an opportunity to reflect over the many accomplishments and sacrifices of service members.

"Because of you, and those like you, a nation is free, full of people who can go to the polls, elect the leaders of their choosing, without risk of being persecuted or struck down by a brutal regime," said Maj. Gen. Russ Handy, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq commander. "Through your sacrifices, you have provided immense opportunity [to the Iraqi people] with the potential [for them] to do great things."

During Operation New Dawn, the U.S. Air Force helped advance the Iraqi air force through mentoring, training and advising Iraqi airmen on everything from support functions to operations while they steadily modernized and rebuilt.

At the end of 2006, the Iraqi air force had only 748 Airmen and 28 aircraft. Now, the force has more than 6,000 airmen and 72 aircraft in its inventory, including the T-6 and C-130E.

In September, through the Foreign Military Sales program, the Government of Iraq made its first payment for 18 F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. The FMS program is the government-to-government method for selling U.S. defense equipment, services and training.

With this F-16 package, Iraq purchased logistical support as well as pilot and maintenance training. When the aircraft are delivered, sometime in late 2014 or 2015, Iraq will have one of the most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft in the world in its inventory.

"We have enabled the Iraqis to prepare for their own future," Gen. Norman Schwartz, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, said during his recent visit to Iraq. "We will certainly continue to have a relationship and will continue to work with them."

Quoting President John F. Kennedy, Handy spoke about the great responsibility those that have supported the Iraq mission have accepted.

"'In the long history of time, only a few generations have been called upon to defend freedom in its hour of maximum danger. We do not shrink from this responsibility, we welcome it-- this is our time---the baton has been passed to us. The young men and women assembled here, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians represent the great treasure in our nation's arsenal.'"

1/5/2012 2:18:20 PM ET
SSgt, they did not want to learn because it was none of our business to be there in the first place. Who are we to say we are better than them? They have their own way of life and we should not question that. Everyone in the world is different and I think more and more that America is acting as a dictatorship trying to impose our own ways onto all other nations. If we allow all religions in our country, who are we to go there and tell them they are wrong Those countries do not need us; we are there because of business interest and politics and don't think for one second that we are there to really help them.
Chris, JBSA
1/3/2012 1:35:05 PM ET
Glad we closed up shop. Not realy sure we did anything to stabilize the region. WMD's or no WMD's. Hope Halliburton's happy.
TSgt, TX
12/30/2011 10:56:48 PM ET
What a waste of time and money and tragically loss of precious lives, and not one Iraqi said thank you when we left.
Check Six, USA
12/29/2011 3:37:25 PM ET
You know when I was over there trying to train the Iraqi how we run things. It was usless. The only thing they wanted was all the free stuff we gave them. Not one Iraqi i trained wanted to learn and sure did not learn. Its just another waste of time. The whole country is like a bunch of children that just want everything handed to them. See you in a few years Iraq when it all falls apart again. Thank you it was good times thou
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